Archive for August 13th, 2019

I’ve just posted on my Blog about: Royce’s pluralism (AND James’s, and Brooks’s) https://t.co/qUTfNolXkq

August 13, 2019

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Royce’s pluralism (AND James’s, and Brooks’s)

August 13, 2019

On my definition of the term (which I think is not the one that’s been contested in the academic literature by some of my friends), Royce is a pluralist like his friend James. A pluralist by my reckoning is someone who recognizes, celebrates, and tries hard to accommodate all the teeming ways of being human.

Their differences are pronounced, but they’re not to do with respect for human variety and diversity. David Brooks singles Royce out as a philosopher for our time, but if that’s on account of his repudiation of hyper-individualism and his advocacy of communal loyalties and commitments then James is right there with him. Pretty sure I can document that, if anybody’s skeptical of the claim. I might even be willing to go to Chicago in February with documentation in hand.

Brooks’s recent column on pluralism names neither Royce nor James, but it reflects them both.

The struggle between pluralism and antipluralism is one of the great death struggles of our time…
We pluralists do not believe that human beings can be reduced to a single racial label. Each person is a symphony of identities. Our lives are rich because each of us contains multitudes.
Pluralists believe in integration, not separation… Pluralists are always expanding the definition of “us,” not constricting it… Pluralists believe that culture mixing has always been and should be the human condition. All cultures define and renew themselves through encounter. A pure culture is a dead culture while an amalgam culture is a creative culture. The very civilization the white separatists seek to preserve was itself a product of earlier immigration waves.
Finally, pluralism is the adventure of life. Pluralism is not just having diverse people coexist in one place. It’s going out and getting into each other’s lives. It’s a constant dialogue that has no end because there is no single answer to how we should live.
Life in a pluralistic society is an ever-moving spiral. There are the enemies of pluralism ripping it apart and the weavers of community binding it together. There is no resting spot. It’s change, fluidity and movement all the way down.
The terrorists dream of a pure, static world. But the only thing that’s static is death, which is why they are so pathologically drawn to death. Pluralism is about movement, interdependence and life. The struggle ahead is about competing values as much as it is about controlling guns and healing damaged psyches. Pluralism thrives when we name what the terrorists hate about us, and live it out.

The sticking point between William James and Josiah Royce and their latter-day defenders is NOT over these tenets of this version of pluralism. It’s over the intransigent block-universe metaphysical monolith James detected behind Royce’s good words about loyalty and community, and the insinuation that our wills might not be free enough to break the block and make a difference. A pluralistic universe can’t be a static thing rooted in anything “Absolute”… so, said James, “Damn the Absolute.” Royce’s rejoinder: you’ve got it wrong, James, what you perceive as stasis is really a divine form of order we’re free to join or not.

Who’s right? I once would have insisted on James, now I’m rooting for them both. We’ll see.

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